The Point (Banjul)

31 January 2013

Gambia: Mixed Public Reactions to New Govt. Working Days, Hours

The newly-announced government working days and hours is set to begin Friday 1st February 2013, amidst mixed public reactions over the move.

On Monday, the Gambia Workers Confederation (GWC) urged the Gambia government to halt its plans to change the official government working hours and days, effective 1st February 2013 in order not to kill The Gambia's standard social service hours and days of work.

In a statement issued by the GWC and signed by its Executive Secretary General, Pa Modou Faal, the GWC said as an organized labour representative, they are obliged to request for the halting of the Executive Orders scheduled to commence on 1st February 2013 by the Gambia Government.

"It is our belief that it is an impromptu executive order which needs a sober reflection and time for a change of this nature," the GWC said.

Also on Tuesday, Hamat Bah, leader of the opposition National Reconciliation Party (NRP) added his voice to the calls for a halt to the move, stressing that The Gambia's current situation does not call for such moves.

According to Bah, in a country where there is virtually no public transport system, the pressure and burden of getting back home from work will be not only an extra cost but loss of time.

The Office of the President last week announced changes to the official government working hours and days, effective 1st February 2013.

A press release from the presidency said President Yahya Jammeh in consultation with Cabinet and giving due consideration to public demands has issued the executive decision to make the changes.

According to the release, the new working days and times will be Mondays to Thursdays from 8am to 6pm.

The release also announced that Fridays will henceforth become rest and prayer days alongside Saturdays and Sundays.

Schools, banks and all affected institutions, the release stated, are free to work on Saturdays to compensate for the Fridays.

"This new arrangement will allow Gambians to devote more time to prayers, social activities and agriculture - going back to the land and grow what we eat and eat what we grow for a healthy and wealthy nation," the release added.

In a bid to seek more public opinion about the new government working days and hours, The Point yesterday went out and about to get public reactions.

A senior civil servant supported the move, stressing that it is good for them to relax and have time for other activities like farming.

"I am definitely in full support of the move because people need time for other activities too," he stated.

"As a predominantly Muslim country, I believe the move is a genuine one because Friday is our day just like Sunday is for our Christian brothers and sisters.

"Also as the government said in its statement, we need time to go back to the land, grow what we eat and eat what we grow," another civil servant also stated.

"This is definitely going to affect everyone in this country whether you are a civil servant or not, because I believe the right arrangements have not been put in place yet to warrant such a move," yet another civil servant told The Point.

"We have no problem with the changes, but proper consultation should have been done across the board to weigh the advantages and disadvantages," he added.

A student at the University of The Gambia also told The Point that such moves will have a drastic effect on them as students, as it will force them to over-stretch in order to cover up certain lectures.

"Travelling all the way from Brikama to Banjul as early as 7am and to close at 6pm is definitely not feasible to most workers, especially those travelling from a far distance," another civil servant said, adding that there should been a better public transport system in place, adding that by the time they get home, it will be around 9 to 10pm.

"The authorities should take into consideration the health condition of most civil servants, some of whom have diabetes, high blood pressure and should take their medications at given periods.

"Also most workers will need to cover breakfast and lunch on their own, as they will have to be at work from 8am till 6pm, in addition to the fish money at home. This will be an extra burden on most people," a civil servant stated.

Another worker of a parastatal organization said the new working hours will affect the social activities of most people, because consideration should have been given to weddings and funerals, which are mostly scheduled at 5pm.

A senior secondary school student who spoke to The Point also expressed concern about the 4-day working week, noting that Saturdays are mostly used for their study classes, especially when exams approach.

"With this new working days and hours, most schools might not be able to cover up their syllabuses," she added.

"Closing at 6pm is definitely not good for married women because most of them should be at home early to cook dinner and take care of the children," another woman told The Point.

"We earn our living on a daily basis, so the Friday, Saturday and Sunday will definitely affect our earnings. We would like to appeal to the authorities to revisit the move," a self-employed middle-aged man stated.

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